21-27 March 2014 #699

Call for greener Kathmandu

Photographers suggest ways to manage the waste problem that has plagued Kathmandu in this latest exhibit

In the last few years, Kathmandu’s unprecedented urban growth has spawned a disorienting mess of concrete buildings, and a garbage-strewn landscape. Eight aspiring photographers struggle to make sense of this growing city in SUS.TAIN.KTM. The exhibition is the result of a two-week photography workshop conducted by photo.circle as a part of the ongoing Climate+ Change.

Through photos, Chemi Lama has penned a sorrowful love letter to the fast disappearing tree population of Kathmandu. His piece is a tribute to the 1000 trees that will be felled to make way for the expansion of Ring Road.

Ashesh Pradhan deals with the issue of mass consumerism with a more whimisical touch. Through double-exposures, waste is superimposed on the heads of various individuals. The portraits are simultaneously beautiful and disturbing, because upon closer look, the extent and the ugliness of this throwaway culture begin to sink in.

Sagar Chhetri singles out the various cluttered elements that make up Kathmandu, from the haphazard vehicles in the bus park, to a flock of pigeons, to the bewildering labyrinth of buildings that blend into a ubiquitous brown and red mass. In contrast, Sujan Karki’s minimalist, black-and-white photographs of Bhote Bahal allude to the overwhelming claustrophobia he feels on a daily basis.

But not all works paint such a bleak picture. Manish Paudel’s playful video installation portrays wastes as valued products (pics, below). Isolated shots of waste items like dolls, broccoli and pipes are cut rapidly to fast music, similar to a commercial. Through this indirect approach, the artist urges people to see value in trash, and to harness its potential through recycling.

“As someone from outside the valley, I see Kathmandu as the nation’s capital where people are educated. Yet, there are garbage dumps everywhere. I began collecting garbage on the streets and back in the studio I isolated each item and photographed it as I would photograph a commercial product,” says the artist of his work.

TRASH TO CASH: Manish Paudel's playful video installation portrays wastes as valued products.

Similarly, Anuj Arora’s documentation of life in Nala village upholds it as an example that Kathmandu can look up to when adopting sustainable practices.

While the works are diverse and laden with each photographer’s subjective interpretation, it is obvious that they share a collective vision of a greener Kathmandu. As the exhibition suggests, there is a need to go beyond mere social commentary.

Toh Ee Ming

SUS.TAIN.KTM Exhibition

Runs until 30 March

11am to 7pm (closed on Tuesdays)

Nepal Art Council, Babar Mahal

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